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Development Reconsidered; New Directions in Development Thinking

Author(s): David Simon

Source: Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography, Vol. 79, No. 4, Current
Development Thinking (1997), pp. 183-201
Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography
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David Simon

Simon, D., 1997: Development reconsidered; new directions in thecrisisandeventualeclipseof thevariousstrands

development thinking. Geogr. Ann., 79 B (4): 183-201. of socialismas alternativepaths;the growingeco-
ABSTRACT. This paper offers broad and critical perspectives on nomic diversity of countries within the Third
current development thinking. A brief summary of different World;increasingconcernwith the need for envi-
meanings of development and a thumbnail sketch of broad trends ronmentalsustainability;the increasingassertive-
over the past twenty to thirty years in relation to major develop-
ment indicators is followed by a discussion of reasons for the
ness of voices 'from below'; and the rise of the
emergence of fundamental critiques of conventional develop- postmodernchallenge to universalizingtheories
ment and developmentalism from perspectives known variously andconventionalpracticesof development(Schu-
as post-structuralist, post-development and anti-development. urman,1993b).
Connections are made between these and the literatures on post-
modernism, postcolonialism and post-traditionalism. Finally, the
Hopefully,this special issue will offer insights
implications of these rapid paradigm shifts and changing realities
not only into recenttheoreticaldevelopmentsand
for future research, teaching and action across the South/North di- reconceptualizations of developmentandthe envi-
vide are considered. ronmentbut, equally importantly,providean op-
Key Words: development theory, development studies, post-de-
portunityto examine their implicationsfor the
velopmentalism, postmodernism, development in practice practiceof developmentin differentcontexts.The
importanceof this is twofold.First,thereundoubt-
edly remainssignificantscope for improvingthe
Introduction nature of interventionsmade by Northernand
The purposeof this paperis to surveycurrentde- Southerndevelopmentworkersandagencies,both
batesandtrendsin developmentthinkingandto be official and non-governmental.This means en-
provocativeof debate. It offers my own insights hancing the effectiveness-in terms of specific
into some of the dramaticparadigmshifts of the goals andobjectivesas well as theimplementation
last two decades,andreflectsin partmy recentre- and monitoring---ofboth directinterventionsand
thinkingof the potentialrelevanceto the Southor indirectassistancethroughthe provisionof funds,
ThirdWorld of concepts of postmodernismand for example.It also meanschallengingtheconven-
postcolonialism(see Simon, 1997a). tionalpracticesandbeliefs which serve to perpet-
In one sense,at least,we currentlylive andwork uate inequalityandthe lack of effective(em)pow-
in an age whereanythinggoes: the certaintiesand er(ment)in the name of humanitarianassistance
universalizingmodernizingethoswhichhavechar- and political feel-good factors. In this respect, I
acterized mainstreamdevelopmentthought and stressthe scope for improvementamongSouthern
policy, and which persistedthroughoutthe Cold as well as Northerninstitutionsand workers,be-
War,havegivenway to a floweringof diverse,even cause thereis a widespreadand franklyunhelpful
contradictorytheories and modes of analysis. implicationin the literaturethatmost if not all of
Whileby no meansequalor perceivedas of equiv- the problemscan be blamedon misguidedNorth-
alent theoreticaland practicalvalue, virtuallyall erntheoriesandpolicies.While the simplisticand
are at least toleratedin thatthey havebeen able to deterministicconstructionsof the dependencistas
finda particularniche.Thisapparentlypostmodern havelong been discredited,this intellectuallegacy
erais commonlycharacterizedas transcendingthe remainsquitetangiblein post-or anti-development
so-called 'impasse'in developmenttheorywhich and even some strandsof postmodernandpostco-
was identifiedby DavidBooth(1985) andothersin lonial writings.It has, of course, also been rein-
the mid-1980s.The impasseis said to have arisen forced by the stronglynegative social impact of
as a resultof widespreaddisillusionmentwithcon- structuraladjustmentandeconomicrecoverypro-
ventional developmentand developmentfailure; grammesand the associated aid conditionalities

Geografiska Annaler - 79 B (1997) - 4 183


(e.g. Cornia et al., 1992; Woodward, 1992; Simon ent development', 'meeting basic needs', 'top-
et al., 1995). down development', 'bottom-up development',
The second important reason for rethinking de- 'Another Development', 'autochtonous develop-
velopment (in) practice is that important strands of ment', 'autarchic development', 'agropolitan de-
mainstream post-structuralist, postmodern and velopment', 'empowerment', and, most recently,
postcolonial work would have us disengage from 'post-development', 'anti-development' and even
practising development at all. Not only is 'the de- 'post-modern development'.
velopment project' deemed to have failed but the It is therefore evident that, notwithstanding what
thrust of 'anti-development' writings asserts that it some postmodern critics and advocates of main-
has undermined local vitality and social cohesion. stream development alike would have us believe
On the other hand, if the implication of the more (albeit for contrasting reasons), there has never
extreme postmodern challenge to the very basis of been consensus or unanimity about the meaning or
collective rationality and identifiable social interest content of 'development'. On the contrary, debate,
is accepted, then even the possibility of state or dissension, contestation and negotiation have been
NGO interventions in pursuit of 'development' ever-present, both on the ground in particular lo-
must be illusory and reactionary. The emphasis of calities and among the numerous official and unof-
much postmodern literature on playful, leisured, ficial agencies engaged in development work. In an
heterodoxical self-indulgence also has little to of- interesting if inaccessible archaeology of 'develop-
fer those who can still only aspire to safe drinking- ment', Cowen and Shenton (1996) trace the lineage
water, a roof which does not leak and the like. How back to Malthus, Comte, ecclesiastical writings by
convenient, then, to abandon concern, resource al- J.H. Newman and others in the early decades of the
location and action in the name of fraternalethical nineteenth century, when it was imbued with spir-
concerns! If this would actually help the approxi- itual meanings and interwoven with ideas of
mately 1.2 billion people living in absolute poverty 'progress', intent to develop and stewardship.
to improve their position, this might be defensible, However, their frustration at what they see as the
but I know of no evidence to support such an as- incorrect contemporary usages reflects an unwill-
sertion. This brand of postmodernism certainly ingness or inability to accept that meanings and us-
would place no more faith in trade than in aid as a ages change and/or are reconstituted over time and
vehicle for poverty alleviation.2 So, unless we are in different contexts. By contrast, for example,
to leave these people and societies to their own de- Leys (1996) is quite explicit about the differences
vices, to abrogate any responsibility for both dis- in meanings adopted since the Second World War,
tant and often not-so-distant others, we need to re- while Escobar (1995) elaborates the use and abuse
main concerned with development in practice as of development as a vehicle for postwar Western
much as with development in theory. economic and geopolitical imperialism (see also
Watts 1995).
Of course, none of the foregoing gainsays the
Meanings of Development fact that one paradigm, that of modernization and
It is not my intention here to address or even com- its contemporary incarnation as neoliberalism, has
pare the numerous and very different definitions or enjoyed long-standing dominance on account of
conceptions of 'development' in the manner of a the power of its institutional advocates and the dis-
textbook. These are too well known. For present crediting of interventionist strategies during the
purposes, it is sufficient to remind ourselves that- late 1960s and 1970s. If modernization/neoliberal-
at least for even vaguely reflective and reflexive ism has been and remains the orthodox, there has
theoreticians and practitioners-definitions are certainly not been a shortage of heterodoxes. We
contextual and contingent upon the ideological, have not had to wait for the postmodern and post-
epistemological or methodological orientation of colonial challenges for this. After all, an apprecia-
their purveyors. Many of these are evident from the tion of, and challenge to, existing institutional
labels associated with the multiplicity of approach- structures, power relations and legitimizing prop-
es to development proffered over the last fifty-odd aganda (or discourses, as these are now generally
years by those concerned, for example, with 're- described post-Foucault) have long been central
construction and development', 'economic devel- concerns of the approaches generally known col-
opment', 'modemrnization', 'redistribution with lectively as political economy. Lehmann (1997)
growth', 'dependent development', 'interdepend- echoes this point with reference particularly to de-

184 Geografiska Annaler 79 B (1997) 4

? ?

pendency'theory'.To a significantextent,anti-de- isfies basic needs (as a minimum),is environmen-

velopment, postmodernand some postcolonial tally,socially andeconomicallysustainableandis
writershave-to modify the parabledeployedby empoweringin the sensethatthepeopleconcerned
TerryMcGee(1997) in a recentlectureon a similar have a substantialdegreeof control(becausetotal
theme-set up a strawelephantin seekingto por- control may be unrealistic) over the process
traythe postwarengagementswith povertyin the throughaccessto themeansof accumulatingsocial
Southas a singleor singular'developmentproject' power.Givenits importantqualitativeand subjec-
in orderto be able to knockit down moreeasily! tive content,this broaddefinitionnaturallydefies
Whattheserecenttheoretical'turns',particular- easy quantificationor cardinalmeasurement.It
ly with their emphasis on deconstruction,have also drawson majorcontributionsto the field over
helpfully highlightedand remindedus of is the thelasttwenty-fiveyearsorso by authorsas diverse
needforgreaterself-consciousness,reflexivityand as Dudley Seers, Paul Streeten,Muhbubul Haq,
encouragementof difference and heterogeneity John Friedmannand Michael Redclift, perhaps
(Slater, 1997). The inherentand appliedvalue of slightlytingedbyWolfgangSachsandGustavoEs-
indigenous traditions,histories and 'knowledg- teva.
es'-especially those lost or marginalizedduring
the colonial andmodern(ist)developmentalistpe-
riods (the latteroften chronologicallypostcoloni- Trends in basic needs and quality of life
al)-have been broughtcentrestage as a counter- In assessingthe shortcomingsor failuresof devel-
point to the often arrogantWesternizationwhich opmentinitiatives,postmodernistsandsome post-
deprecatedor ignoredthem as ignorant,primitive colonialcriticsdownplayor ignorethe compelling
or simplyirrelevant.Nevertheless,it is also impor- evidencefromaroundthe globe thatthe dominant
tantto pointout that,especiallyin those social sci- aspirationsof poor people and theirgovernments
enceswithstrongtraditionsof fieldwork,including remainconcerned(albeitfor structurallydifferent
social anthropologyandgeography,therehave al- reasons)withmeetingbasicneeds,enhancingtheir
ways been sensitive researchersarticulatingthe livingstandardsandemulatingadvancedindustrial
view frombelow, with the loss of indigenouslife- countriesin some variantof classic modernization
styles and culturaldiversity.Admittedly,this was strategies.
sometimes sentimental, sometimes Eurocentric Similarly, the very tangible achievementsof
andoftenpreservationist in the sense of seekingto many 'development'programmes-albeit to dif-
createliving museumsas if behindglass.3 feringextentsandat differentratesin ruralandur-
However,it canbe no accidentthatit is precisely banareasandin almostall countriesof theSouth-
withinthesevery academicdisciplinesthattherise in termsof wider access to potablewaterand in-
of postmodernism hasbeenmosthotlydebatedand creasing literacy rates, averagenutritionallevels
its relevanceto the three-quarters of the world's and life expectancy,for example,are often over-
populationliving in absoluteand relativepoverty looked or ignored.A glance at any recentissue of
in countriesof the Southmost frequentlyresisted the Human Development Report (UNDP, annual)
and denied.Most postmodernistsand postcoloni- or even the World Development Report (World
alists have greatdifficultyin embracingthe con- Bank,annual),confirmsthe generaltrendoverthe
crete developmentaspirationsof the poor in prac- last twentyto thirtyyears in statesof virtuallyall
tice, despitetheirtheoreticalsophistication.Partof ideological orientations.The principalexceptions
this trendis a growingretreatto the cosy Northern are those countries-many of them previously
pavementcaf6-a favouredhaunt of those with seekingto implementsome formof radicalsocial-
panoptic vision(s)!-from the rigours and chal- ist programme-where widespreador long civil
lenges of field researchin the South,by hidingbe- warshavedestroyedphysicalandsocialinfrastruc-
hind the convenientlyhyped 'crisis of representa- tureanddisruptedsocial programmes.These con-
tion'of who has a/therightto speakor writeon be- flictswereoften spawnedorfannedby superpower
half of ThirdWorld'others'.This issue will be re- rivalryduringthe ColdWar;examplesincludeAn-
turnedto below and is also addressedin a slightly gola, MozambiqueandSudan,El Salvador,Grena-
differentway by Mike Parnwell(1997). da andNicaragua,andAfghanistanandCambodia.
All thatI wish to addhereis that,for me, human A morerecentandworryingtrendtowardsfalling
developmentis theprocessof enhancingindividual school enrolments(especiallyat secondarylevel),
and collective qualityof life in a mannerthatsat- literacylevels and access to healthcare facilities

Geografiska Annaler ? 79 B (1997) - 4 185


has emerged since the early 1980s in countries By no means all authors have succumbed to this
where previously high proportions of state expend- temptation to universalize: for example, several of
iture on education, health and other social services the contributors to Crush (1995), especially Porter
have been severely cut and user charges introduced (1995), Mitchell (1995) and Tapscott (1995), pro-
in terms of structuraladjustment and economic re- vide nuanced analyses of individual countries,
covery programmes. Two of the most clear-cut ex- agencies or projects and highlight the interplay be-
amples are Tanzania and Zimbabwe, as even the tween metatheories and broad ideologies, particu-
World Bank now readily acknowledges in its advo- lar discourses and concrete contextual applica-
cacy of greater attention to the social dimensions of tions. However, many poststructuralist critics of
adjustment (e.g. Cornia et al., 1992; Woodward, conventional development(alism), e.g. contribu-
1992; Simon et al., 1995; Husain and Faruqee, tors to Sachs (1992), still need to take far greater
1996; UNDP, annual). account of the differences in objectives, policy and
Overall, the available evidence suggests that, de- practice among the various official bilateral and
spite debates about how best to implement devel- multilateral donors (cf. for example, the Nordic
opment, success has at best been uneven, both countries and the USA; or UNICEF and the World
within and between countries. While average in- Bank), which were arguably far more substantive
comes and the quality of life for a substantial pro- during the 1970s and 1980s than in today's neocon-
portion of people have been rising over the last two servative, market-oriented climate). In addition,
or three decades in much of South-east Asia and many very diverse Northern and Southern non-
parts of Latin America, for example, the reverse is governmental organizations (NGOs) have adopted
true in most of Africa, parts of South Asia, the Car- very different objectives and methods from official
ibbean, and latterly also Central and Eastern Eu- donors over the last twenty years or so, generally
rope. Within many countries, as well as between working with community-based organizations
countries in particular regions, disparities have (CBOs) and so-called social movements, and
been widening ratherthan narrowing, with little ev- which have made considerable contributions to
idence that this trend will shortly be reversed in line both community empowerment and material im-
with predictions of conventional modernization provement in quality of life.
(e.g. Africa Confidential, 1997). This is one pow- Indeed, such organizations and movements do
erful reason for the growth of so-called anti-devel- figure centrally in the alternative discourses advo-
opment perspectives. cated by Escobar and others; however, the great di-
versity in every respect of such collectivities and
the now-voluminous literature on NGOs warn
Development discredited4 against idealizing them uncritically as embodying
Notwithstanding the above point, the way in which the latest 'magic bullet' of development (Walker,
often diverse programmes, agendas and even prin- 1988; Schuurman and Van Naerssen, 1989; Ekins,
ciples espoused by very different donor and recip- 1992; Schuurman, 1993a; Edwards and Hulme,
ient governments, non-governmental organiza- 1995; Hudock, 1995). Somewhat bizarrely, given
tions and internationalfinancial institutions are dis- his trenchant and detailed critique of official dis-
missed by post- or anti-developmental critics using courses and development policies and pro-
the fashionable phrase, 'the development project' grammes, Escobar (1995) adopts a sharply con-
(e.g. Pieterse, 1991; Esteva, 1992; Sachs, 1992; trasting and ingenuous idealization of NGOs and
Routledge, 1995), is unhelpful, as there neither was 'new' social movements as authentic and legiti-
nor is such a monolithic or singular construction, mate without any attempt at evaluation or decon-
even during the heyday of modernization in the struction. David Lehmann (1997) has recently un-
1960s and early 1970s. Arturo Escobar (1995) ex- derlined this latter point most forcefully within a
emplifies this trend in a more sustained manner wider critique of Escobar's book. The contrast be-
than most, by globalizing the argument from his tween Escobar's treatment and Schuurman's
penetrating and in-depth analysis of US 'develop- equally theoretically informed discussion of NGOs
ment' interventions in parts of Latin America, es- is sharp.
pecially through USAID. Given his post- or anti- Conversely, developmentalists all too often still
development stance, this rather un-postmodern ignore or fail adequately to internalize the reasons
universalizing represents a shortcoming which sig- for widespread 'development failure', especially in
nificantly reduces the power of his critique.5 poor countries and among often large subordinate,

186 Geografiska Annaler - 79 B (1997) 4


unpowerful groups, and therefore the potential val- dominant occidental development paradigms of re-
ue of postmodern, postcolonial and related visual- cent decades, namely modernization and political
izations. It is indeed ironic that the absolute or rel- economy/structuralism, have generally shared the
ative failure of many developmentalist states and characteristics of being rather narrow, often econ-
state-led development strategies is central to neo- omistic, top-down and overtly modernizing in ap-
liberal and post- or anti-development approaches plication. They also share the characteristic of be-
alike. Hence, the rolling back of the (generally de- ing overarching metatheories, firmly rooted in the
velopmentalist) state, one of the central tenets of discourses of intellectual modernism, and there-
current neoliberal development orthodoxy, is in- fore seeking to provide singular, universal expla-
creasing the political and symbolic spaces for, and nations for poverty and underdevelopment and pre-
hastening the evolution of, diverse NGO and CBO scriptions for overcoming them.7 However, it is
initiatives in many countries,6 which some writers worth reminding ourselves that modern develop-
see as constitutive of postmodernity (Bell, 1992; ment is not a totally uniform or smooth process,
Escobar, 1995). Simply to dismiss postmodernism and that modernization need not lead to global ho-
and related paradigms as irrelevant or esoteric mogeneity, especially if undertaken with a degree
without any attempt at serious evaluation of or en- of politico-economic and cultural autonomy, as the
gagement with them is both methodologically and Japanese experience illustrates so powerfully.
practically unhelpful (see below). The objectives of conventional developmental-
The rapidly expanding literatures on globaliza- ism with respect to the South are generally articu-
tion and 'flexible' post-Fordist production in the lated at three principal levels, although the partic-
world economy have been quite successful, albeit ular discourses, agendas and processes of develop-
unevenly, in examining the interconnectedness of ment may differ considerably both within and be-
the divergent economic fortunes of different coun- tween them:
tries and regions across the globe (see recent re-
views by Barff, 1995; Thrift, 1995; Whatmore, - by the populations of poorer countries, ex-
1995). However, these latter perspectives are still pressed, for example, in voting patterns. This
dominated unequivocally by Northern-centric can be illustrated by Peru's President Fujimori
world views. Little consideration is given to possi- winning widespread popular support in that
ble alternativeperspectives focusing on local world country's 1992 general and presidential elec-
views and development strategies or ideologies tions by virtue of his relative success in
which rely rather less on external determinants clamping down on Maoist guerrillas and his
(e.g. Adedeji, 1993; Himmelstrand et al., 1994). promises of better living standards, despite
Many of the contributors to these two books the undemocratic route by which he seized
share Afro-centric world views, and are critical of power a few years previously. More generally,
the inequities of the existing world order and the the struggles by poor people to meet their ba-
colonial or neocolonial relations which have given sic needs and their aspirations for an im-
rise to the current crisis of sustainability. Yet their proved quality of life are strongly influenced
perspectives would not be considered as 'postco- by the demonstration effects of modernization
lonial' by adherents of that paradigm. Indeed, the and the consumptive lifestyles of the middle
diffuse literature on postcolonialism connects re- and upper classes. Different methods and
markably little with conventional developmental routes to achieve these goals may be adopted,
agendas or-far more surprisingly-with post- but active alienation, rejection and rebellion
modernism, despite the former's valuable focus on are normally only last resorts.
restructuringinequitable colonial inheritances, and - by nation states, in terms of their political pro-
the cultural politics of identity, especially recover- grammes and national development plans. For
ing the 'lost' identities of groups subordinated and example, the Zimbabwean government has
marginalized by colonial practices, official histo- consistently sought to prevent and eliminate
ries and Northern feminist and environmentalist squatting and informal urban settlement on
discourses. This fragmentation of discourse, or the grounds that it is demeaning and unworthy
perhaps more accurately the politics of discourse of a progressive, modemrn(and until recently
and labelling, will be returned to below. also supposedly socialist) African state. De-
In view of their very different points of departure pending on the nature of the state and open-
and agendas, it is somewhat ironic that the two ness of the political system, regional and local

Geografiska Annaler ? 79 B (1997) ? 4 187


state institutions may share or oppose the cen- needs philosophies (cf. Wisner, 1988; Bell, 1992;
tral state's agendas, but extreme measures Simon et al., 1995; Streeten, 1995; Wolfe, 1996)
such as active rebellion and attempts at seces- and, I would argue, is currently being repeated in
sion may be increasing in frequency as the relation to the ubiquitious sloganizing about 'sus-
writ of ossified and corrupt highly centralized tainable development'.
states faces challenges from outlying and im- As I argued some years ago, the pedigree of the
poverished areas. The armed resistance by the sustainability debate stretches back at least to the
Sudan People's Liberation Army and other early 1970s (Simon, 1989), when the impact of
Christian and animist groups to Islamicization Rachel Carson's (1962) landmarkcatalogue of de-
in southern Sudan by the government in Khar- velopment's environmental woes in the USA, The
toum, the Zapatista rebellion in Mexico's Chi- Silent Spring, and neo-Malthusian concerns about
apas State, the insurgencies against Mobutu resource exhaustion, prompted important new re-
Sese Seko's kleptocratic former dictatorship search agendas, major international conferences
in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of and the establishment of the United Nations Envi-
Congo) and the Karen hill people's struggle ronment Programme (UNEP). Certainly, today's
against the brutal military regime in Burma/ environmental discourses are very different from
Myanmar are all cases in point. those evident in The Limits to Growth (Meadows et
- by international financial institutions (IFIs) al., 1972), A Blueprintfor Survival (The Ecologist,
and donor agencies, in terms of their over- 1972), Only One Earth (Ward and Dubos, 1972),
arching discourses, lending criteria and fund- Small is Beautiful (Schumacher, 1973) or The So-
ing priorities. For instance, the World Bank cial Limits to Growth (Hirsch, 1977) and indeed
and other donor agencies have continued to from the development agendas informing 'Reshap-
promote large-scale dam projects and other ing the InternationalOrder'or the Brandt Commis-
infrastructuralprogrammes in order to maxi- sion reports. However, what at that time was still
mize conventional economic benefits despite widely regarded as a radical(?) or eccentric fringe
the well-known social and environmental concern has become progressively more accepted
costs and evidence that smaller schemes, built and acceptable over the intervening years. The es-
with greater sensitivity to local people and tablishment of the World Commission on Environ-
their environment, are often also economical- ment and Development (WCED) (the Brundtland
ly more successful. In fairness, rather greater Commission) in 1983 and the publication of its re-
attention has been devoted to the social and port, Our Common Future, in 1987 both reflected
environmental consequences of large schemes this and provided a new landmark in the 'fore-
in recent years, but-with one or two notable grounding' of sustainable development as dis-
exceptions-generally still predicated on the course, objective, process and fad. In the same year,
assumption that construction should go ahead, Michael Redclift's (1987) elegant little book, Sus-
e.g. the Narmada River dams in India, the tainable Development, appeared, taking conceptu-
Turkwel Gorge dam in Kenya's West Pokot al and analytical rigour in the field to a far more so-
District and the Three Gorges Dam on the phisticated level.
Yangtse River in China. Five years later, the WCED report had a sequel
in the form of the 1992 UN Conference on Envi-
More emphasis by donors and recipient govern- ronment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Ja-
ments on alternative delivery systems,8 processes neiro, intended to transform the concept into more
and project types emerged during the 1980s, not concrete international commitments and agendas.
least because of funding constraints and condition- Notwithstanding substantial horse-trading and the
alities, themselves linked to the new deity of eco- watering down of the intended conventions for ide-
nomic efficiency and marketization. However, ological and domestic political reasons by the US
such co-option often devalued more radical alter- (Republican) and British (Conservative) govern-
native antecedents, reducing them from agendas ments in particular, a process which generated
for change and empowerment into little more than much criticism and cynicism among many environ-
shopping lists which are hawked to donors for im- mentalists and radical NGO critics, the conference
plementation, commonly more in line with donors' did result in unprecedented intergovernmental and
than recipients' priorities. This has been particular- NGO commitments to biodiversity conservation,
ly graphically illustrated with respect to basic greenhouse gas emission reductions and the imple-

188 Geografiska Annaler 79 B (1997) 4

? ?

mentationof Agenda21 at local as well as national legitimacyhasbeen soughtandderived.Moreover,

and internationallevels (Middletonet al., 1993). thereis a deep-seatedtensionbetweenthe cutting
Subsequently,therehas been widespreadevidence of socialexpendituresin line withdonorcondition-
of greaterflexibilityand commitmentto more di- alities (despitesome more recentpalliativepack-
verse projecttypes and scales andto greaterenvi- ages to addressthe social dimensionsof adjust-
ronmentalprioritizationin various policy arenas ment)andthepromotionof literate,healthyandac-
(Hurrell,1995;Reed, 1992).Nevertheless,it is also tive participantsin expandingdemocraticstruc-
certainlytrue that most official agendasenvisage turesandcivil society (e.g. Simonet al., 1995). In
little fundamentalchange,focusing on promoting effect, it also has to be realizedthat,particularlyin
more efficientresourceand energyvaluationand theirearlier1980s formulationsbut also morere-
use, recyclingandreducedpollutionbroadlywith- cently,conventionalanalysesof the debtcrisis and
in existingparametersratherthanon radicalchang- the most effective solutionsamountedto blaming
es to lifestyles and economic systems.At the ex- the victimsof development,the vast majorityof
treme,sustainabledevelopmenthasbecomea con- whom had little if any say in the policies adopted
venientsloganto signalpoliticalcorrectnesswith- by theirstatesor the transnational banksandother
out the correspondingcommitmentto change. financial institutions and official donor bodies.
Such expediencyis usuallyassociatedwith estab- This is closely linked to 'Afropessimism'and its
lishmentinstitutions,as was once againunderlined equivalentsin otherregions.Similarly,SAPs and
by the failureof the 'Rio Plus Five' summitat UN conditionalitieshave been describedby theirpre-
Headquarters in NewYorkin lateJune1997.Many scribingdoctorsas harshmedicinerequiredto ef-
governmentministers and NGO activists alike fect a systemic cure.Yet, like most conventional
wereverycriticalof thelackof commitmentby key Westernmedicine,they are directedat the symp-
Northerngovernments,anddubbedthe event 'Rio toms ratherthan the underlyingcauses (Simon,
MinusFive' (Independent,28 June 1997).Perhaps 1995b).
such official cynicismpromptedEscobar's(1995: In termsof theprevailingconventionaleconom-
192-3) condescendingly dismissive assertions ic developmentwisdom,greatermarketorientation
aboutsustainabledevelopmentandthe Brundtland would actuallyenhancethe prospectsfor attaining
Commission Report, to which David Lehmann modernityby achievingeconomicgrowth,whichis
(1997:574-5) hasjustifiablytakensuchexception. widely regardedas being an essentialprerequisite
The dominantmodernistdevelopmentalethosis for subsequentredistributionandthe wider fulfil-
still for the most partobsessed by the agendaof mentof basicneedsandpopularaspirations(Slater,
economic efficiency, articulatedlargely through 1993, 1995b).The one dimensionof equitywhich
privatizationandliberalizationprogrammes. These has generallyreceivedincreasingattentionis that
programmes have long pedigrees but derive their of gender:genderawarenessis now accordedex-
immediateimpetus from aid conditionalitiesim- plicit recognitionin most policy and programme
posedby the IFIsandotherdonororganizationsas documents,albeitstill frequentlymerelyatthelev-
strategiesforovercomingtheThirdWorlddebtcri- el of lip-serviceor superficialityin the 'womenin
sis and promoting'free' internationaltrade.The development'mould. More thorough-goinginte-
logical-and indeed desired--outcomehas been grationof genderissuesin accordancewith 'gender
the almostuniversalrollingback of the statecou- anddevelopment'approachesis still inadequatein
pled with a resurgentrole for domesticand espe- practice, despite the now increasinglyprominent
cially internationalcapital,evenin peripheralpost- positionof variousfeministdiscoursesin develop-
socialist states(Hanlon,1991, 1996; Sidawayand mentdebates,especiallyaroundindigenousrights
Power, 1995). The ultimateprescriptionhas been and identitiesas well as communityparticipation
to maximizetradethroughexport-oriented produc- andthe environment(Shiva,1988;Minh-ha,1989;
tion based on supposedinternationalcomparative Moser, 1993; Nesmith and Radcliffe, 1993; Rad-
advantage. cliffe andWestwood,1993;Bell, 1994;Marchand
While this approachmay improvethe delivery andParpart,1995;Townsend,1995).
of certaingoods andservices,it generallyandde-
liberatelyfails to addressequityissues adequately
and is likely to underminethe abilityof develop- Post- everything
mental states to deliver on their political pro- Thecurrenttheoretical'turns'arecharacterized by
grammesfor social development,fromwhichtheir the prefix'post-'in relationto mostperiodsor par-

GeografiskaAnnaler- 79 B (1997) - 4 189


adigms, as in postcolonial, postmodern, post-Cold of the terms 'postmodem' and 'postcolonial'. I dis-
War, postdevelopment and so forth. Clearly they cuss a threefold distinction between the postmod-
are used to signify differences, either in terms of ern as period or epoch, as mode of expression or
periodization or conceptual and methodological aesthetic form, and as analytical method or prob-
approaches. We could therefore be forgiven for suf- lematic (ways of seeing), which is very helpful in
fering a degree of post-itis, of feeling past it, post- disentangling the range of usages. I argue that it is
everything! After all, even history has ended, if the last of these three which has most potential in
Francis Fukuyama's simplistic triumphalist credo relation to the South. I then suggest the application
were to be believed. In a similar vein, some recent of this same threefold categorization to the litera-
discussions about time-space compression in the ture on postcolonialism; although it is somewhat
context of globalization and the role of telecommu- more difficult to separate them, it is again the post-
nications have suggested the end of geography, as colonial problematic which appears to have the
if space were somehow to triumphover place in the most utility. I shall now briefly explain why.
sense of localities being imbued with specific so-
cio-cultural meanings.
What I am suggesting is the importance of a Postmodern perspectives
healthy scepticism towards some of the more What distinguishes the present period is that the ex-
sweeping and emotive formulations of post-every- pression of conventional developmental ideals and
thing, which may universalize from particularcase the methods of implementing them no longer enjoy
studies in a manner reminiscent of modernist the- universal acceptance and legitimacy within target-
orizing, be elitist as practised by its advocates de- ed countries and areas. Increasingly, individuals
spite the supposed concern with precisely the op- and groups of people at a local level are either seek-
posite, and may actually be of little practical use in ing the attainmentof their aspirationsfor better liv-
addressing poverty and providing basic needs. ing standardsoutside the realm of the state, or they
Moreover, critiques of conventional developmen- have rejected the dominant developmental dis-
talism and the search for more meaningful, appro- course(s) and are pursuing alternativeagendas with
priate and socially grounded and bottom-up alter- very different aims and objectives. In the former
natives are not new. As with the different defini- case, they are still seeking the basic needs and other
tions of development and the examples of basic fruits of modernization but have despaired of the
needs and environmental sustainability given ability of the state and official development agen-
above, there is a long pedigree of initiatives and cies to deliver on their promises, and have thus tak-
theoretical formulations stretching back decades en their own initiatives. In the latter scenario, they
and including, for example, Reshaping the Interna- have rejected the basic premises and trajectories of
tional Order (RIO); autarchy as advocated by the the modem developmental state. Hence, urban and
extreme dependency authors, Andr6 Gunder Frank other 'new' social movements have arisen in a wide
and SamirAmin; the Brandt Commission; Another variety of contexts and countries in response to a
Development-as articulatedby the Dag Hammar- vacuum or, more generally, as alternativemodes of
skj6ld Foundation through its journal, Develop- organization and with very different agendas from
ment Dialogue, since the late 1970s (e.g. 1978, discredited official local government or communi-
1980); the agenda for a New InternationalDivision ty structures (Walker, 1988; Schuurman and Van
of Labour articulated through UNCTAD; and a Naerssen, 1989; Routledge, 1993; Bell, 1994; Ed-
range of grassroots and bottom-up strategies from wards and Hulme, 1995; Hudock, 1995). Some-
different perspectives, of which agropolitan devel- times the political, social and environmental di-
opment, associated with John Friedmann, is possi- mensions of protest and action have been linked
bly one of the best known. More recently, Rose- (Schuurman and Van Naerssen, 1989; Schuurman,
mary Galli (1992) has examined anti-development 1993a; Radcliffe and Westwood, 1996). A dramatic
perspectives which have little to do with postmod- recent example, which integrates development and
em or postcolonial critiques. environmental concerns, is the citizens' rebellion
That said, and as I have recently argued at length in the Mexican town of Tepotzlain in late 1996,
(Simon, 1997a), it is no longer appropriateto reject when the mayor and town council were expelled
these perspectives out of hand as being irrelevantto and a virtual unilateral declaration of independ-
societies in the South. Many of the problems and ence was proclaimed over the mayor's efforts to
non-debates have arisen from imprecisions in use have a major US$400 million upmarket develop-

190 Geografiska Annaler 79 B (1997) 4

? ?

ment comprising a golf course, other sports facili- tions.Theoutcomewas apparentlyunforeseenand

ties, a hotel and condominium of 800 homes in the unimaginedby any of the protagonists,but the
name of 'development', while ignoring popular de- stakeswereraisedandtheresultwas openrebellion
velopment demands. In addition, the golf course andthe usurpationof the local stateby the protest-
would have exacerbated the local water shortage ers andtheirsupporters.No doubttherewereother
and put valuable land beyond the reach of most res- local complexities, and the article says nothing
idents: aboutthe socio-economicprofileof the activistsor
communityat large.However,the writof the hith-
In Tepotzlan, however, where cars must ertoomnipresentPRI no longerrunsin Tepotzlin.
squeeze into cobbled streets meant for don- Whetherthe standoffwill persistand whetherthe
keys ... the local residents were not buying the residentswill be ableto organizeanalternativesys-
golf club's passport to modem life. Petitions tem of local administrationremains to be seen.
demanding the cancellation of the golf club However,this examplehighlightsthe importance
turned into street protests, and then into dem- of contingencyandlocalityin the analysisof events
onstrations outside the town hall. When Mo- andmovementsfor change,evenin this age of glo-
rales [the mayor] still refused to meet his an- balizedcommunicationsandglocalizedconscious-
gry constituents, a group stormed into his of- nesses andidentities.
fices and held six officials hostage. The rebel- A very differentexampleis providedby the re-
lion had begun. ... "It began as an sponse of headmanSebastianKamangwaof the
environmental protest,"says Rodriguez [the 4000-strongShitemocommunityliving in an iso-
protest leader], ... "but with the jailing of four lateddistrictof OkavangoRegionin north-eastern
comrades over the past year, and two deaths in Namibia,to the recentopeningthereof a primary
clashes, and all the arrest warrants hanging health care clinic by the country's Minister of
over our heads, it has become much more Health.At a time whenconventionalandtradition-
complicated. We cannot give up the fight al (bio)medicalsystems are increasinglycoming
now."... "A unique and extraordinaryphenom- togetherin complementarysyntheses (which are
enon is taking place in Tepotzlin,"Adolfo arguablypostmodemrn-see Simon, 1997a)in vari-
Aguilar Zinser, an opposition congressman ous partsof sub-Saharan Africaandbeyond,he re-
and longtime resident, wrote in the daily La portedlyproclaimedcategoricallythat
Reforma. "We, the residents of Tepotzlin, are
discovering that no government is better than In the past malariacaused a lot of suffering
bad government. Without a PRI government, andfightingbecausepeoplethoughtit was the
without municipal police, without the pres- resultof witchcraft,butnow we haveseenthat
ence of any federal law enforcement agency, the clinics can solve these problems. Some
we enjoy a far higher level of security than in people are still tryingto cause troubleby de-
the rest of the state of Morelos." mandingthat traditionalhealers be revered,
Not everyone shares Aguilar Zinser's rose- but I am adamantthat we cannothave tradi-
tinted views. Some residents say the town has tional healers working alongside modem
become more polarised, while many are tired health services (TheNamibian,6 June 1997:
of the endless appeals for money to keep the 8).
rebel government afloat. Relatives of ousted
officials who remained in Tepotzlin have suf- Suchan overtlymoderniststancemightseem rath-
fered discrimination and abuse (Crawford, er outdatedor evenquaint,yet theheadmanclearly
1996). perceiveshimself as progressive.This exemplifies
my earlierpointsaboutsocialconditioning-mod-
This example illustrates well how the politics of lo- ernor otherwise-and thepowerfuldemonstration
cal protest, induced by popular rejection of conven- effect,albeitsubstantiallytimelagged,of perceived
tional development agendas which are perceived to successfulmodeminnovationsin otherwiseappar-
be imposed in a top-down manner by unresponsive entlyconservativeruralcommunities.It also raises
elected officials and developers, can, if the senti- severalquestionsaboutrepresentationand legiti-
ments are deeply enough felt and the authorities macy within local communities;in other words,
sufficiently inflexible, progress to more direct ac- how representativeis the headman'sstanceof his
tion in defence of space, place and popular aspira- people's perceptions, and will their practices

Geografiska Annaler 79 B (1997) 4 191

? ?

change in view of his attitude?There is also a major countries of the South as well as a way to help re-
issue for social theorists to ponder. The new clinic think North-South relations (e.g. Slater, 1992a,
saves people a walk of at least 12 km and helps treat 1992b, 1995a, 1997). This will be evident to any-
malaria and other serious illnesses. Is it therefore one who has encountered the jarring contrasts on
legitimate for postmodern and/or postcolonial crit- stepping out of an ultra- or postmodern urbanshop-
ics to decry or dismiss the significance of such in- ping precinct into untarredstreets lined with shan-
novations to poor people's lives? I return to this ties and beggars, or who has encountered the par-
question below. adoxes of contemporary tourist landscapes super-
These contrasting examples also demonstrate imposed on poor rural communities in the Carib-
that there is a growing disjuncture between mod- bean, Latin America, Africa or the Asia-Pacific
ernist developmental rhetoric and the increasingly regions. Indeed, it may well be that this condition
diverse experiences of such programmes on the is far more widespread and characteristic of the
ground. While spokespeople, political leaders and South than the North. It is also not necessarily a
even many 'grassroots' or community groups re- very new or recent phenomenon-having roots at
main committed to the grand scale and 'the big ide- least as far back as the late colonial period in Afri-
as' of progress and development, methods of im- ca, Asia, the Caribbean Basin and Pacific Islands-
plementation invoke strategies which, elsewhere in but rathera different way of seeing and interpreting
the world, have been associated with the postmod- the quite long-standing phenomena of Southern
em. dislocation, unemployment and poverty previously
What is therefore emerging is a growing accept- regarded as representing incomplete moderniza-
ance of heterodoxes, diversities and multiple sys- tion and the iniquities of colonialism. Moreover,
tems, explanations and modes/scales of institution- many of the contrasts, contradictions and fragmen-
al organization, which are at least partially super- tations of meanings and practice within the South
seding the conventional modernist traditions of a are at least as much the result of deliberate or wilful
single orthodoxy in state ideology and practice. actions as is the case with postmodern showpieces
However, it is by no means certain, or even desir- of urban design and other forms of expression in
able, that this trend will eventually eliminate mod- the North.
ern(ist) development agendas. Therefore, it may
well be that the co-existence and simultaneity of di-
verse (and even divergent) systems and practices Postcolonialism-a Eurocentricconstruct?
become an enduring reality, even though their re- Dani Nabudere, the veteran radical Ugandan law-
lationships are likely to be flexible and changeable, yer, social scientist and politician, takes issue with
and perhaps as much symbolic as substantive. This the entire notion of postcolonialism (personal com-
condition exemplifies the essence of postmoderni- munication, 14 January 1996). He regards this as
ty as understood by analysts working in the North too Eurocentric, implying the previous hegemony
(Dear, 1988; Folch-Serra, 1989; Harvey, 1989; of colonial institutions, social structures and iden-
Featherstone, 1991, 1995; Soja, 1991; Bauman, tities as so eloquently elaborated by Blaut (1993)
1992; Berg, 1993; Watson and Gibson, 1995), in and Corbridge (1993a). Consequently the experi-
terms of which the monolithic modernist discours- ence of colonialism is the defining point of refer-
es, both liberal and Marxist, have been or are being ence. However, in many parts of the former colo-
discarded in favour of a multiplicity of ideologies nial world, including sub-Saharan Africa, indige-
and modes of explanation.9 In terms of the schema nous values, social structures and identities sur-
discussed above, this represents the notion of the vived-admittedly to differing extents and with
postmodern as problematic, overlain with a distinct differing degrees of engagement with or transfor-
element of the postmodern as epoch, albeit without mation by colonial impositions. Hence, in his view,
a clear break from the modem and, indeed, charac- the task of evolving and promoting new, people-
terized by the co-existence of and overlap between centred and indigenously generated African alter-
the two. 10 natives to the colonial and the modern should be
In many respects, this conceptualization appears more accurately termed 'post-traditional'.
to offer a far more helpful way of understandingthe A fascinating example is provided by the land-
often disjointed and conflicting processes, phe- mark investiture of Sinqobile Mabhena, a young
nomena and material and cultural styles-both ur- female trainee primary school teacher, as chief of
ban and rural-which are now so typical within the 100,000 Nswazi people in Zimbabwe in De-

192 Geografiska Annaler - 79 B (1997) 4


cember 1996. Under the headline, 'The chief who boycotted by several chiefs and political fig-
wears a miniskirt', Andrew Meldrum wrote thus in ures and the attendance of 800 was smaller
The Guardian (24 December 1996): than the 2,000 that had been anticipated. "I re-
main opposed to this because it is against our
Surrounded by government ministers and trib- culture,"said Welshman Mabhena, governor
al chiefs, Sinqobule Mabhena appears a mod- of the neighbouring Matabeleland North
el of female subservience as she bows her province, who did not attend the investiture.
head and modestly lowers her eyes. But this "An Ndebele chief must always be a man."
demure 23-year-old has rocked Zimbabwe's George Moyo, chairman of the Vukani
traditional culture by becoming one of the first Mahlabezulu Cultural Society, also opposes
women to take on the powerful mantle of trib- the investiture of Ms Mabhena. "Our ances-
al chief. "I know many people are opposed to tors did not approve of a female chief. It is go-
me becoming chief because I am a wom- ing to destroy our culture. In our culture wom-
an"said Ms Mabhena. "Being a woman en were only advisors at home, that's all,"he
doesn't mean you are disabled."... said. "There are many chiefs who are not go-
"Chief Howard Mabhena died in 1993 and ing to accept this. The Nswazi people are go-
he had no son to succeed him. It therefore fell ing to have trouble because of this."
upon his eldest daughter, Sinqobile, to suc- Ms Mabhena's grandmother, Gogo Flora
ceed him and she has taken up her chieftain- Masuku, is outspokenly in favour. "I am very,
ship responsibilities with humility"[said John very happy to see a female chief. Women must
Nkomo, Minister for Local Government]. Ms stand up for their rights and advance their po-
Mabhena's investiture has been delayed by sition. Women fought to end Rhodesia. We
more than a year because of objections. "The now have female cabinet ministers and air-
government held lengthy discussions and the plane pilots. Why not chiefs? Is the queen of
Nswazi people insisted they would rather Britain a man? Is Margaret Thatcher a man?
have Sinqobile than a male chief who would Women can be leaders."
not have been appointed by them. All's well
that ends well."... Here we have a rich tapestry of cross-cutting con-
Mr. Nkomo invested Ms Mabhena with the tinuity and change, of old, new and hybrid identi-
traditional chief's costume, an incongruous ties, of reason and reaction, of gender and power re-
but arresting mix of African and colonial sym- lations, of the preservation versus transcendence of
bols of authority: a crimson and purple chief's categories, and of how and by whom they are ne-
robe, a white pith helmet, a leopard skin and a gotiated, defined and safeguarded. These issues are
staff. ... all chronologically and analytically postcolonial.
"I want to look at all sides in any dispute Moreover, we have here a timespan and a problem-
and to be fair,"said Ms Mabhena. "I don't atic which simultaneously engages the indigenous,
want to only take the woman's side or to just precolonial 'traditions'; the colonial institutions
take the man's side."... As scores of well- and laws which subordinated indigenous practice
wishers crowded around to congratulate Ms into a category of 'customary law' and its uphold-
Mabhena, the young chief wiped a few tears ers, embodied in the office of chief, into clients of
from her eyes. "Ijust thought about this whole the colonial state; and the ongoing struggles and
thing, the history, my father, the future, the re- challenges of the postcolonial epoch, one critical
sponsibility, everything,"she said. Sinqobule dimension of which is the relationship between the
Mabhena is a combination of the old Africa state and indigenous institutions. We are given the
and the new. During the week she lives in Bu- broadly accurate impression of a powerful govern-
lawayo, where she is studying to be a primary ment which nevertheless treads warily with regard
school teacher. She wears short skirts, high to custom and chiefly powers: it sought a mediatory
heels and has a boyfriend, who is a school- rather than a prescriptive role, yet ulitmately reaf-
teacher. At weekends she goes back to her firmed its statutory and effective primacy over the
family's rural home where she meets in coun- customary realm by despatching no lesser a repre-
cil with the Mabhena clan's elders. sentative than the Minister of Local Government to
Her investiture, however, does not bring an install the new chief. The ironies are considerable,
end to the controversy. The ceremony was ranging from the quintessentially colonial name of

Geografiska Annaler ? 79 B (1997) ? 4 193


the one male traditionalist (i.e. Welshman) seeking different contexts, and suggests the need for some
to uphold precolonial norms, and the Scottish first caution (Simon, 1997a). It is also apposite in this
("European") name of the feminist grandmother, context to consider the importance of shedding the
who invokes examples both Zimbabwean and Brit- colonial and/or 'traditional' modernist legacies
ish in support of her postcolonial argument, to the within academic disciplines like geography, in the
"incongruous but arresting"symbols of chiefly of- South, as we move towards the new millennium
fice, and the equally incongruous role mixture of (Crush, 1993; Simon, 1994; Singh, 1995).
the modem, abode- and dress-code-swapping ru-
ral-urban commuter student/chief. School-teach-
ing, like nursing, is one of the most enduring colo- Rethinking Development:From Theory to
nial traditions among Africans, in the sense of be- Practice
ing one of the few skilled modem vocational/pro- The conceptualizations of postmodernism, postco-
fessional avenues open to African women. In this lonialism and post-traditionalism that I have ad-
sense, apart from the fashionable clothes alluded vanced are, of course, very different from the par-
to, there is nothing postcolonial about her chosen alysing and conservatizing, even self-indulgent,
career; however, her assumption of the chieftain- nature of extreme relativism adopted by some post-
ship and her decision and ability to combine this modernists in the North. I am trying to push out the
with a career is certainly 'postcolonial' and simul- frontiers of theorizing and engagement. Therefore,
taneously 'post-traditional'. in this concluding section I shall examine two
The implications of this perspective need to be questions: first, the extent to which these poststruc-
considered, both in terms of terminology and in re- turalist and postmodern ideas, and also current
lation to frames of reference, not least by postco- conceptualisations of sustainable development, in-
lonial authors concerned primarily with the identi- form how and what we teach our students, and, sec-
ties and world-views of former colonial subject ond, how far these ideas are being transferredinto
peoples now living in erstwhile imperial the arena of practice by the broader development
metropoles in Europe and North America. From community?
the examples analyzed above, and from a priori ar-
gument, it would seem to have several potential
merits. First, it encompasses a broader,less specific Teaching development studies
sense of the 'traditional' as the accumulated amal- The volume of research publications attempting to
gam of practices and beliefs from previous epochs engage with poststructural and postmodern per-
and domains. Second, and following on directly spectives is rising but still represents only a small
from the previous point, it removes the 'colonial' fraction of total research output within develop-
nomenclature which imposes an implicitly North- ment studies. As these paradigms become more
ern-centric fixety of epoch and dominant peoples, widely accessible, one might expect student inter-
identities, institutions and discourses/practices; est in development studies to wane somewhat. Per-
third, it is historically more inclusive since not all haps paradoxically, the opposite seems true. Stu-
territories and indigenous polities in the South dent numbers on undergraduatecourses are hold-
were colonized by Europe, although the vast ma- ing firm, at least in the UK and Nordic countries,
jority certainly were; and, fourth, it implies the pos- while new postgraduate taught courses have been
sibility of greater weight being given to indigenous or are being established by a number of universi-
and hybrid pasts, which may in turn (re)combine in ties. These are popular among British and foreign
new hybrid ways, both appropriate and dysfunc- students alike.
tional/disjunctural. Naturally, this perspective Less surprising, then, is the currentrush by pub-
clearly has much in common with some strands of lishers to produce new textbooks in development
postcolonial writing which are concerned with the studies which attempt to keep up with the rapid re-
recovery of lost indigenous histories and identities. cent changes in the South. Additional volumes are
However, to the extent that it might signpost the im- appearing all the time and the currentchoice is un-
portance of Southern perspectives and modes of precedented. I will concentrate on those books
problematization and decentre Northern preoccu- which include some conceptual or theoretical cov-
pations, 'post-traditionalism' seems a helpful con- erage. In some cases, authorshave sought to update
cept. older books through new editions. Such efforts are
However, even this term is already being used in often unexciting, if only because they tend to retain

194 Geografiska Annaler 79 B (1997) 4


the old format and approach (albeit within a rede- ing critique is not matched by an exposition of an
signed jacket), merely adding a postscript chapter, alternative vision or its application; even his final
updating some data or case studies, and rearrang- chapter-something of a prospect--does little
ing some parts of the text at a time when a fresh ap- more than eulogize NGOs as representing the way
proach is really called for. Perhaps the most rele- forward.
vant recent exemplar of this category is the second At least four recent textbooks on development
edition of BjmrnHettne's Development Theory and theory, namely Peter Preston's (1996) Develop-
the Three Worlds, which appeared in 1995. The ment Theory; an introduction, John Brohman's
publishers' blurb on the cover implies far greater (1996) Popular Development, John Martinussen's
revisions than the minor ones actually undertaken. (1997) Society, State and Market, and John Rap-
Most conspicuous, moreover, is the paucity of new ley's (1996) Understanding Development, offer
literature added to the bibliography and the ab- clearly written and accessible accounts of the var-
sence of any mention of, let alone engagement ious modem development theories and debates,
with, poststructural and postmodern perspectives. linked to issues surrounding the role of the state
Of the more empirically focused but conceptually and the impact of external and internal imperatives.
informed books, the second edition of A Geogra- However, they all omit any explicit reference to
phy of the Third Worldby Dickenson et al. (1996) poststructuralist and postmodern theories. Rap-
illustrates just what can be achieved by substantial ley's final paragraph begs the question without
rewriting and reorganization. even a hint of such possibilities:
Among the plethora of recent books on develop-
ment, Paul Streeten (1995) and Marshall Wolfe The time for hard questions is approaching. If
(1996) have written retrospective accounts from the experience of the East Asian NICs was ex-
the perspective of their own careers, highlighting ceptional, if conditions have changed for the
the challenges of changing times and paradigms. worse in the world economy and the interna-
Both express regret that more has not been tional political economy, if the political and
achieved in the field of poverty alleviation but also economic prospects for some countries are
point out some of the contemporary challenges, es- growing bleaker all the time, a serious recon-
pecially the necessity of having states which are sideration of what development is and should
capable of decisive action and development inter- entail may be in order. The time for another
vention when appropriate.In other words, they de- paradigm shift may be drawing near (Rapley,
crie the current obsession with minimizing the in- 1996: 158).
terventionist role of the state. Under the circum-
stances, it is not very surprising that they do not dis- I am aware of only one substantial and three partial
cuss poststructural perspectives. While not a exceptions to this state of affairs. Power of Devel-
valedictory survey prior to retirement, Colin Leys's opment, edited by Jonathan Crush (1995), offers
(1996) The Rise and Fall of Development Theory the most sustained and accessible treatment of
has some similarities with the former two books, in these perspectives and themes. As an edited vol-
as much as it is a collection of papers and chapters ume, though, the extent of engagement and the pre-
in the broad subject area, written at various stages cise perspective varies across chapters. Similarly,
over a number of years, although several are orig- the recent festschrift for Jan Kleinpenning, a lead-
inal to the book. There is much excellent material ing Dutch development geographer, The Diversity
in an accessible prose style suitable for both teach- of Development (Van Naerssen et al., 1997) con-
ing and research, but Leys does not address the re- tains several theoretical chapters (including one by
cent theoretical 'turns'. The same is true of Ozay Frans Schuurman) which do address currenttrends
Mehmet (1995), whose slim volume is a ratherdis- and debates. John Brohman's (1996) text goes rath-
appointing critique of Eurocentrism in economic er furtherthan the other single- or double-authored
development theories but ultimately addresses texts in opening such vistas and considering 'alter-
only a few of the mainstream contenders. Arturo native' issues and agendas which reject Eurocen-
Escobar's (1995) Encountering Development, one tric bias and grand theories, and centre on empow-
of the most widely distributed and read of the re- erment of the poor. Although he uses the umbrella
cent texts, is written as a detailed and elegant cri- term 'popular development', much of his analysis
tique of conventional development(alism) from an corresponds to postdevelopmentalism as discussed
anti-development position. However, his devastat- above. Michael Cowen and Robert Shenton (1996)

Geografiska Annaler 79 B (1997) 4 195

? ?

seek to address postmodernism by way of a final ter on 'Sustainable development and the greening
chapter in their Doctrines of Development which of development theory' by Bill Adams. Adams has
was clearly written as something of an afterthought also contributed a chapter on 'Green development
and does not sit easily with the rest of their mate- theory?' to Jonathan Crush's (1995) edited collec-
rial. It certainly fails to engage with the new per- tion, along with a chapter by Gavin Williams on
spective, and is little more than heated invective 'Modernizing Malthus: the World Bank, popula-
against one particularedited volume which Cowen tion control and the African environment'; the en-
and Shenton take to be the embodiment of all the vironment, environmentalism and sustainable de-
evil that is postmodernism.1I velopment are also touched on elsewhere and are
Finally, it seems appropriate to include two extensively referenced in the index.
slightly earlier books which, while not incorporat- In terms of single- or double-authored books,
ing poststructural and postmodern theories explic- the situation is far more worrying. As discussed
itly, do set out detailed alternative, locally appro- above, Escobar (1995) provides approximately
priate and bottom-up approaches to development, twenty pages on sustainable development-a cri-
which they call empowerment and coevolution re- tique of the Brundtland Commission report and a
spectively. These are John Friedmann's (1992) Em- summary of some alternative perspectives. Marti-
powerment, on which Brohman (1996) dreew sig- nussen (1997) devotes one eighteen-page chapter
nificantly, and Richard Norgaard's (1994) Devel- out of twentyfive to 'Development with limited
opment Betrayed. So perhaps paradoxically, these natural resources' and Brohman (1996) one chap-
two represent the most substantive treatmentsof al- ter out of eleven on 'Environment and Sustainabil-
ternative, poststructural "revisionings", to borrow ity'; Streeten (1995) provides similar coverage as
Norgaard's term. part of his chapter on 'Global institutions for an in-
I have undoubtedly inadvertently omitted other terdependent world', as does Marshall Wolfe
books, but on the basis of those cited here, it seems (1996), with a chapter entitled 'The environment
clear that there is as yet no comprehensive textbook enters the political arena'. By contrast, Hettne
coverage of the major emerging theoretical fer- (1995), Mehmet (1995), Preston (1996) and Rap-
ment in terms far broader than the impact of the ley (1996) all provide only outline sketches in three
debt crisis and policies of liberalization and de- or four pages of the environment-development in-
mocratization for communities on the ground and terface and issues of sustainability, with only one or
those concerned with improving their lot. The rea- two index entries to match. Cowen and Shenton
sons for such omissions are no doubt varied, but in- (1996) mention them only in passing, while the
clude a lack of personal familiarity on the part of words 'environment' and 'sustainable develop-
the authors, their perception that postmodernism in ment' do not even appear in the index to Leys
particular, is irrelevant to the South, and the un- (1996); there is also no coverage of these issues in
doubted difficulties involved in trying to synthesise the two or three chapters dealing with the important
extremely diverse and even contradictory litera- theoretical development debates in Kenya and 'De-
tures in a manner accessible to undergraduates.For velopment theory and the African tragedy'.
the time being, then, our students will be reliant on While one might understand the omission of
more fragmented research-oriented literature if postmodernism and similar paradigms from most
they are to gain an understandingof the 'post-' par- of the new texts for reasons mentioned above, the
adigms. relative absence and even silence in the single- and
As pointed out earlier, the environment is one of double-authored volumes must be a matter for
the leading development topics of the 1980s and grave concern. Even where there is coverage, it
1990s. One would therefore certainly expect to find tends to be compartmentalized in a separate chap-
extensive coverage of environment-development ter which, while arguably highlighting its impor-
issues in this new crop of texts, taking full account tance, also fails to engage with the extent to which
of the sustainability debate and the range of envi- environmental concerns and theorizations have
ronmentalist theories or ideological positions, such been integrated within or have engaged other de-
as ecodevelopment, deep ecology, political ecolo- velopment theories and paradigms. The wide influ-
gy and the like. However, I must confess to some ence of Blaikie (1985), Blaikie and Brookfield
astonishment at how marginal this theme is in most (1987) and Redclift (1987), for example, in estab-
of the books under discussion. Frans Schuurman's lishing what is now widely known as political ecol-
(1993) book contains a very useful overview chap- ogy (Bryant, 1992, 1997), makes this silence all the

196 Geografiska Annaler - 79 B (1997) 4


more remarkable. There therefore remains an ur- ment of people denied access to knowledge,
gent need for more up-to-date development studies resources and power for hundreds of years.
texts; the hype from publishers surrounding the Second, that the most effective way of doing
value of the plethora of recent books is clearly ex- this is to unite understanding and action, or
aggerated. theory and practice, into a single process
which puts people at the very centre of both.
This is the real task for development theories
Postmodern practice in development in the 1990s (Edwards, 1993: 90).
One response to the crisis of representation and the
challenge of postmodern practice has been to with- This perspective conveys a clear sense of moral
draw from field research, advocacy and develop- duty or commitment to engagement; in other
ment work, a step which, as I argued above, may ap- words, development practitioners are intent on con-
pear to let those individuals feel vindicated but does tinuing their work as sensitively and responsibly as
not ultimately let them off the moral hook. It might possible (see also Corbridge, 1993b). To this end
also address one of the key concerns of Cowen and appropriate theories that are grounded in the real
Shenton (1996), by re-establishing a clear distinc- world will be helpful; others will be discarded. By
tion between a secular process of development over means of the concrete examples in the previous sec-
time and the explicit intention to develop. By con- tion, I have sought to indicate the potential rele-
trast, nearly a decade ago, as the theoretical im- vance of the new perspectives in a manner which is
passe became more widely debated, Michael Ed- very different from the grand theorizing, universal-
wards (1989) fomented lively exchanges by ques- izing and/or uncritical eulogizing of NGOs and
tioning the relevance of development studies to new social movements so evident in the work of
what happens on the ground. He bemoaned the lack many postmodern and postcolonial proponents.
of impact of theories and vast research efforts on Such bodies may have many advantages and now
conditions on the ground. Four years later, he felt operate within a far more favourable climate of re-
the situation to be less dire and saw progress in in- duced state involvement and increasing political
tegrating theory and practice through greater inter- tolerance. However, they represent no sinecure and
action between the respective groups of actors, the have many drawbacks, including vulnerability to
development of new research methodologies such changing circumstances, the loss of key leaders and
as the actor-oriented approach and techniques in- former external funding, and misconduct. The chal-
cluding participatory rural appraisal: lenges facing the civic associations in South Africa
during and following the transition away from
In the 'postmodem void' which faces devel- apartheidillustrate all these dilemmas, as they have
opment studies today, it is important to have to adapt from frontline resistance politics to more
some convincing theory to act as a counter- watchdog roles under a legitimate government. De-
weight to conventional economics. ... Is there velopment may have become a dirty word to some,
in fact any alternative to an eclectic approach as an intimate part of a particular geopolitical and
which examines everyday experience from a economic 'project' which has wreaked much hav-
number of different points of view and then oc. In that sense, perhaps, we need to transcend 'de-
synthesises the results into higher-level expla- velopment', not by pulling down the shuttersbut by
nation? ... So long as theory is constructed formulating different paths to the same end. It is
from real experience it will have explanatory certainly incumbent on us not to moralize about or
power. But it will never be 'Grand theory' in to seek to represent others, distant or proximate, by
the sense implied in the classical tradition. the uncritical/unselfconscious projection of our
This may be a disappointment to academics, own world views from a position of unequal power.
but is scarcely relevant to practitioners (Ed- Ultimately, this amounts to asking whether devel-
wards, 1993: 85). opment work in practice retains any legitimacy and,
if so, for and by whom?
He then concluded by re-emphasizing two core A UN reportpublished on 12 June 1997 suggests
ideas: that the elimination of world poverty would cost a
relatively modest ?50 billion, less than the annual
First, that the purpose of intellectual enquiry budget of the UK, for example (BBC Radio 4 Today
in this field of study is to promote the develop- Programme, 12 June 1997; although not stated, this

Geografiska Annaler 79 B (1997) 4 197

? ?

may refer to the 1997 HumanDevelopment Report). Such museums have now, of course, increasingly become
The report emphasizes facilitation as the crucial sanitized and idealized as part of the postmodern pastiche
experience laid on for international package tourists, al-
mechanism-helping people to help themselves though a minority do succeed admirably in their aims of
through appropriate,enabling interventions such as sensitive conservation and recovery of threatened cultures
promoting education (especially of girls, who com- and social identities.
4 Parts of this
section, like the foregoing subsection, are
monly have far lower enrolment,completion and lit- drawn from my recent analysis of the relevance of postmod-
eracy rates than boys) and debt relief rather than ernism and related perspectives to the South (Simon,
merely the untargeted giving of increased aid vol- 1997a).
umes. This approachhas become widespread within 5 I will return to this methodological question later on in rela-
tion to other writings on postmodernity and postmodernism.
progressive agencies and NGOs and is substantively 6 For various reasons, it is by no means inevitable, however,
different from the supposedly targeted aid condi- that political liberalization and the establishment of formal
tionalities of structuraladjustmentand economic re- multi-party democratic structures will translate into greater
covery programmes, where social expenditure cuts freedom and diversity of practice within civil society and
have retardedratherthan accelerated skills acquisi- NGOs (Hudock, 1995; Simon, 1995a: 35-41).
7 This point has recently been elaborated more fully by Tay-
tion and hence the development of civil society as a lor (1996).
counterweight to government. 8 This term is still in wide use among development agencies
The implications here are clearly that increased but is itself problematic in contemporary terms, as it implies
responsive, co-operative, locally appropriate and top-down provision. However, much of the thrust of recent
directed resource transfers do and can have a con- changes to the practices of such agencies has been con-
cerned to become more locally responsive and involved col-
tinuing role in meeting the challenge of widespread laboratively-either directly or indirectly-in the process.
poverty--of which powerlessness is such an im- 9 However, it is important to reiterate that, as explained earli-
er, the implicit globalizing and universalizing of 'the post-
portant component alongside nutritional and other
basic need considerations. In other words, it is the modern condition' by authors like Harvey and Soja reflects
a continuing modernist methodological praxis. Featherstone
basis of intervention rather than whether to inter- (1995: 79) has recently amplified this point in relation to the
vene that is at stake. We-the wealthy and power- overall methodology of Harvey and Frederic Jameson,
ful of both North and South-cannot abandon our namely their conception of postmodernism as a cultural
form accompanying the transition to late capitalism or flexi-
moral responsibility to the poor unless we see our- ble accumulation:
selves as caf6 patrons who studiously if somewhat Like Jameson, Harvey sees postmodernism as a nega-
uncomfortably ignore the pavement beggar or we tive cultural development with its fragmentation and re-
regard the struggle for survival and development of placement of ethics by aesthetics leading to a loss of the
critical edge and political involvement which he regards
the poor in other cultures and countries as a leisure as characteristic of the works of artistic modernism. Yet
time spectacle akin to a latter day gladiatorial con- ... [such] analyses rely on a totalizing logic which as-
test to be observed and discussed at a safe distance, sumes that the universal structural principles of human
albeit on television rather than in the Colosseum! development have been discovered and that culture is
still caused by, and is a reflection of, economic changes.
... They rely upon a neo-Marxist metanarrativeand me-
Dr David Simon, Dept. of Geography, Royal Hol- tatheory which insufficiently analyses its own condi-
loway, University of London, EGHAM, Surrey tions and status as a discourse and practice. ... This
TW20 OEX, UK. email: leads to an inability to see culture and aesthetic form as
practices in which their meanings are negotiated by us-
ers. It also displays an inability to see that economics
should itself be regarded as practices which depend
Notes upon representations and need to be seen as constituted
Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the at the in and through culture too.
Society of South African Geographers' Conference on Envi- 10 Naturally, different forms and processes may occur in dif-
ronment and Development in Africa: an Agenda for the 21SP ferent regions and contexts. For example, Leontidou (1993)
Century, ESKOM Conference Centre, Midrand, South Afri- has argued that postmodernity in Southern Europe has been
ca, 29 June to 3 July 1997; an earlier version was given at characterized by a transition from preindustrial to postin-
the Nordic-British-Dutch Conference on Rethinking Devel- dustrial without having experienced widespread industriali-
opment and the Role of Development Co-operation, Sida- zation. This challenges the conventional linear stage ap-
SANDO, Sweden, 14-17 June 1997. proach to development as well as views of the postmodern
2 These critical comments should not be interpreted as a blan- as being strictly epochal. Cohis (1994) engages with a varie-
ket dismissal of the relevance of all strands of postmodern- ty of literary and cultural perspectives from Latin America.
ism to the South; indeed, I have recently argued at some " For more detailed reviews of some of these recent books,
length (Simon, 1997a) that aspects of this perspective do see Brown (1996) and Simon (1997b).
have substantial value in rethinking development and cul-
tural diversity. I shall return to this issue in a later section of
this paper.

198 Geografiska 79 B (1997) 4


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